Seeing how squid camouflage works leads to some uncomfortable truths

Americans eat billions of pounds of seafood every year, but we hardly stop to think about the amazing abilities of these creatures when they’re deep-fried, delicious-looking morsels on our plates.

Take the humble squid, for example.

Many squid species are covered in psychedelic skin that rapidly adapts to its surroundings. This biological camouflage hides the animals from hungry predators. (Save humans, of course.)

A new¬†YouTube video by KQED breaks down the mechanics of how squid skin shimmers, shifts, and undulates in incredible detail. And, as I realised after watching the clip, that understanding leads to some surprising — and uncomfortable — truths that could make me question my next bite of calamari or octopus.

Keep scrolling to see how the squid’s and similar animals’ skin camouflage works.

Mollusks like cuttlefish, octopuses, and squid can camouflage themselves on the fly.

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They can do this because the animals are covered in skin that can rapidly change its appearance.

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Balloon-like structures called chromatophores are behind this shifty look.

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Each chromatophore 'balloon' is filled with ink, and the muscles lining it can change the spread of the ink. This can make the skin look lighter, darker, and a different colour.

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Octopuses and cuttlefish can also change the shape of their skin to look like rocks or seabed debris with other muscles.

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A question scientists at Stanford University wanted to know was: Do the animals control their camouflage? Or is it reflexive, like breathing?

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To find out, they cut the nerve that controls one-half of a squid's chromatophores, as KQED explains in the video.

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Although the majority of chromatophores on the cut side of the squid seemed disabled...

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...Cutting the nerve didn't disable all of them. It was almost like the squid's skin could still 'see' and adapt to its surroundings -- no squid brain required.

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Which suggests squid, octopus, and other mollusks are intelligent enough to control their camouflage, yet also strange enough for the camouflage to control itself.

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Personally, I'll find these amazing truths a bit difficult to stomach the next time I'm offered a plate of seafood.

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